In high school I spent $170 on a pair of Diesel denim. It was a huge splurge for me at the time and nearly decimated my bank account. But I wore those jeans at least twice a week for almost five years, until the holes I’d worn in the knees got out of hand. Parting with them was painful. But they made my next pair of expensive denim more palatable. As my mother used to say, “If you buy cheap you buy twice.”
We all have those pieces in our closet. The t-shirt, the dress, the flats that we reach for again and again. Some of them might be new buys, but chances are, we’ve had those evergreen items for awhile. Fashion trends come and go. But there are some fashion basics that if not timeless, have a lot more life than others. And those basics are worth spending a little more on.
Just ask Kate Middleton. The Duchess of Cambridge made waves in the fashion community when she wore the same dress to her new sister-in-law, Meghan Markle’s wedding in 2018. The pale yellow Alexander McQueen was also worn to Princess Charlotte’s christening and Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday party. Not that I’m comparing my Diesel denim to her custom Alexander McQueen dress in any capacity, but regardless of your budget, you can make a versatile and much-loved item a regular in your closet for years – if you know how to shop correctly.
But how does one begin to build a capsule wardrobe of fashion basics? Which items are worth a splurge, and which should be saved on?
Well, here are five questions to ask yourself before you make an investment purchase:
Why do I want this item?
- Do you want this piece because it’s beautiful and timeless? Or do you want it because of the brand associated with it?
- Do you want the piece because it fits you perfectly and you feel confident in it? Or do you want it because others have told you you look good in it?
- Do you want the piece because you can pair it with multiple items in your closet already? Or do you only have one skirt or pair of pants in mind that it will work with?
Before buying an investment piece, make sure you really want to buy it for the right reasons. Otherwise, no matter how much it cost, it will end up gathering dust for years until you finally sell it or donate it – for much less than you bought it for.
What kind of material is it?
When it comes to an investment piece, material matters. It’s much better to invest in pieces made of material like leather, which only gets better over time. Consider how it will wear, how often you plan to wear it, and make a plan for caring for it (i.e. storing for the warm months, dry-cleaning, suede protector etc.) If you’re not great about caring for your clothes, that linen shirtdress is probably not a wise investment for you – even if it’s a basic you can see yourself wearing time and time again.
How does it fit?
Fit is one of the most important considerations when it comes to purchasing a basic. If you plan to wear it all the time, the fit has to be perfect. And fit trumps color or pattern. Having an item that you love, feel confident in and looks tailor-made to your body is essential for a true basic. Also consider actually taking your clothes to a tailor. It’s what women did for years to get that perfect fit – and has since become a concept largely reserved for the rich and famous. But if it’s a fashion basic you’ll wear again and again, it may be worth hiring a professional.
How versatile is it?
One of my most beloved items is a black BCBG jacket. It’s light enough to wear in the spring, it’s warm enough to wear in the winter when layered with a sweater. It’s my go-to for travel, since it’s warm for the plane, looks great with skinny jeans and leggings, and is completely washable. I accidentally left it in the wardrobe of our hotel in Amsterdam, and I took a (very) expensive cab ride across the city, risking a missed flight to pick it up because that is how versatile this jacket is.
Decide not only what you’ll wear the piece with, but when. Which seasons? Which events? How easy is it to clean? Can you wear it to work, out, on Saturday, traveling, etc.?
Versatility = more wear, which makes the CPW more justifiable.
Do I really love it?
This is the most important question of all. Do you love it? If so, pull the trigger. Something you love, you’ll reach for again and again. You’ll love it in a year and maybe even two years and probably even ten years if you really love it now. Like is no good. Lukewarm is a big hell no. Don’t settle for anything less than love. The perfect piece for you is still out there – and it’s worth a splurge.